Our poor little backyard birds have been having a rough cold week out there. How do they make it out there? They're so tiny and delicate! Our bird feeders have been extra busy these past couple of weeks. The woodpeckers love to eat those suet cakes that have bits of nuts and seeds and corn in them, but the ones that they sell at most wild bird supply stores or big retailers like Walmart are all made with beef fat. The reason I came out of my hermit hole today is to share a "recipe" for coconut oil "suet" cakes. These are not something we'd make all year round because coconut oil is expensive and we are not made of money, but also because it must be quite cold enough outside for the coconut oil to remain solid. I don't really measure the ingredients because it's basically just a bit of melted coconut oil with a lot of chunky goodies thrown in, but I did take notes and pictures when I was making this suet cake so I could share them with you in case you want to make some for your wild birds. Let's do this!
For one cake you will need about:
2.5oz (70g) coconut oil
1 heaping tbsp unsalted, natural peanut butter
2oz (60g) chopped unsalted nuts (they love peanuts and whatever nuts I may have from the bulk bins)
2oz (60g) cracked corn
1oz (30g) millet
about 1 tbsp cornmeal
about 1 tbsp oats
The instructions are quite simple. Gently melt the oil and the peanut butter together either in the microwave or over low heat in a saucepan. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well. Done! You may need to use a bit more cornmeal and/or oats if you have too much soupy oil in your bowl. All the solid ingredients will sink to the bottom of the bowl or saucepan and you should have only a thin layer of oil at the top (see photo #3 below.) Now you just need to transfer it all into a mold that would be about the same size as your suet cake and refrigerate it until it's completely solidified. You can use unsalted seeds instead of corn or millet.
From top to bottom and left to right:
- Ingredients, assemble!
- Melted coconut oil and peanut butter.
- Nuts and other goodies mixed into the oil/peanut butter mix.
- The "suet" cake ready to be refrigerated.
- Dinner is ready! That type of suet cage can be found in most wild bird food shops and massive retailers like Walmart.
Now let's see what the customers think of these cakes.
(Can't see the video of the woodpeckers enjoying their treat? Try this.)
I think they approve! I hope it helps keep their little bellies warm during the cold winter nights. The little Downy Woodpeckers and the larger Red-Bellied Woodpeckers love these. Unfortunately, the starlings love them too. Starlings will "Vashta Nerada"* these lickety-split. Our resident mocking bird has been eating these too, as well as our tiny little juncos and even the sparrows.
Alrighty then. I've done my damage here. Back to my hermit hole!
* If you're not a Doctor Who fan, that just means a swarm of starlings will devour them swiftly!
EDIT: Don't worry if you can't find those suet holders in your area, do what Starr does and use string to hang the suet cakes!